The Government has claimed people who ignore receiving the seasonal flu vaccine are playing “Russian roulette with their lives”.
A DH survey found that 87% of holidaymakers get the necessary injections to combat tropical diseases, but separate figures reveal that less than half under-65s advised to get the flu jab were vaccinated.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, says there is “no reason not to get vaccinated” and urged those eligible to get the jab as soon as possible.
Pregnant women, patients with long-term conditions such as diabetes and asthma, and anyone with a neurological condition can get the vaccination free of charge.
Frontline health and social care workers, carers, pensioners and those in nursing homes are also encouraged to get vaccinated. But the survey found that only a third of frontline doctors and nurses opted to have the flu jab last winter.
More than 600 people died with flu in Britain last year, the majority of whom were young or middle aged. But the Chief Medical Officer says this number could be reduced if people took just a matter of minutes to get vaccinated.
“A five-minute appointment to have the flu jab could save your life,” said Professor Davies. “Flu can be a serious illness – particularly for those in at risk groups. It can result in a spell in hospital, and sadly, flu can kill. The best way to protect yourself is to be vaccinated.
“It takes five to ten days for the vaccine to take effect so I’d urge everyone in an at risk group to get vaccinated as soon as they are able.”
The National Director of Immunisation, Professor David Salisbury, added that it was equally as important to be covered against tropical diseases as it is the flu and the sooner they do the better.
“It is very important that people in these groups get vaccinated early in the flu season so they are protected before flu starts to circulate.
“About three-quarters of older people get their flu vaccine each year, but only around half of younger people in at risk groups get vaccinated. Seasonal flu is not the same as getting a cold – it can seriously affect your health.”